Well, that took a while.
We returned to California exactly a month ago, and before I could fully arrive, life rushed back in, strongly insistent that I get over this jetlag toute suite and be here now, because there were queries to respond to, jobs to schedule, calls to be had and friends to catch up with. Interestingly enough, it was the little details of quotidian life that were a struggle more than the overall vibe of being back in “the West”. After a month of going with the flow, it was time to take charge of our meals again and the planning side of my brain was very rusty.
At the risk of sounding like a big fat cliche, my time in India was simply magical and far too short. Oh it was hot and chaotic and uncomfortable for sure. And noisy and messy and smelly and the tapwater is unsafe and the pollution is unbelievable. But that’s part of the deal of travelling in India. You can either resist it by thinking about all the things that need to be fixed or you just take it all in and roll with it. I chose the latter, the path of least resistance, and over the course of 19 days I think I got pretty good at it. I came to realize that our experience of whether life at any moment is “great”, “fantastic” or “sucks” begins with the stories we choose to tell ourselves about the circumstances we’re in.
Spending four days in Varanasi was a major highlight. This is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world and yet the place has an exuberant, youthful vibe about it despite its ancient banyan trees, claustrophobic maze-like streets and small, rickety doors. It is a sacred place for Hindus because they believe that dying here liberates the soul from the cycle of birth and death. As such, the two polarities of life and death co-exist vibrantly in Varanasi. There are the cremation fires that burn all day up and down the river, the same river where families bathe, pray, make offerings for their ancestors and where locals make a living piloting boatloads of tourists. Our last evening in the city coincided with the annual festival of Jivitputrika, where mothers fast a day prior then break fast with other mothers in their families in a big celebration by the river, bringing offerings of food, flowers and incense for the well-being of their children. At the same time this celebration of life was going on, we saw smoke rising from parts of the city where violent clashes between the police and holy men resulted in a lockdown and curfew. Life and death. Peace and Violence. Two sides of the same coin of life that is ever-changing. The trip I took was part of a 30-day itinerary that included a segment that went deep and high up into the Himalayas, which I didn’t sign up for, regretfully. As I process more photos from India and Bali, you can check out the wonderfully compressed video that our guide and organizer made – 30 days in six minutes!
More to come. Enjoy.